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Data: Johns Hopkins; Chart: Axios Visuals

Today marks another devastating milestone in the 2020 history books:

The state of play: February 29: First reported U.S. coronavirus death; May 23: U.S. death toll hits 100,000; September 22: U.S. death toll hits 200,000, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.

The big picture: The world's most powerful country has abjectly failed in its response to this pandemic.

  • The federal response has been abysmal, ranging from procurement disasters such as PPE to signs of rot at revered institutions like the CDC.
  • Many states made errors around quarantines and face mask rules.
  • The citizenry isn't immune from blame: America has been an outlier among its peers for its culture wars over face masks and social distancing.

The bottom line: Deaths keep coming — we’re averaging roughly 830 per day — even as the country increasingly sees the pandemic as background noise, reports Axios' Sam Baker.

Go deeper

Updated Dec 31, 2020 - Health

California reports first case of new coronavirus variant

Healthcare workers treating a patient in UCLA Medical Center in Torrence, California, on Dec. 29. Photo: Dania Maxwell/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California reported its first case of a new variant of the coronavirus that may be more transmissible, AP reports.

The big picture: California is the second state to document a confirmed case of the variant — which originated in the United Kingdom — after Colorado reported the first case in the United States on Tuesday.

Republicans pledge to set aside differences and work with Biden

President Biden speaks to Sen. Mitch McConnell after being sworn in at the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday. Photo: Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images

Several Republicans praised President Biden's calls for unity during his inaugural address on Wednesday and pledged to work together for the benefit of the American people.

Why it matters: The Democrats only have a slim majority in the Senate and Biden will likely need to work with the GOP to pass his legislative agenda.

The Biden protection plan

Joe Biden announces his first run for the presidency in June 1987. Photo: Howard L. Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

The Joe Biden who became the 46th president on Wednesday isn't the same blabbermouth who failed in 1988 and 2008.

Why it matters: Biden now heeds guidance about staying on task with speeches and no longer worries a gaffe or two will cost him an election. His staff also limits the places where he speaks freely and off the cuff. This Biden protective bubble will only tighten in the months ahead, aides tell Axios.